Fighting the Growing Gang Problems in Rural Communities

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fresno police say they're having some success in battling gangs, thanks to Operation Bulldog.But leaders in many of Fresno County's rural towns say their gang problem is growing.

Sheriff Mims wants a new MAGEC team that will focus on southeast Fresno County. Cities like Reedley and Sanger have already agreed to contribute officers for the new team. Now, one more officer is needed from Selma and that committment could come in the next few weeks.

The signs of gang activity are hard to miss in this Selma neighborhood. There are fences covered in graffitti, and just a block away, there are reminders of the area's two homicides in the past year.

Rudy Alcarez, Selma Police, says, "This was Valentine's day of 2007. The victim was a Bulldog Gang member."

It's an area that Officer Rudy Alcarez knows well as the city's gang coordinator. But, Selma's police chief says it will take more than one officer to really impact the city's growing gang problem.

Selma Police Chief, Tom Whiteside says, "We've had a huge spike in homicides, attempted murders, shootings, stabbings, and it's got our community in fear. . .and they expect us to do something about it. And we don't the resources&the small army Fresno has."

Selma Police Chief Whiteside says his community is feeling the pinch as the Fresno Police Department cracks down on Bulldog Gang members. But Selma isn't the only community experiencing a growing gang problem. Sheriff Margaret Mims says it's going on throughout southeastern Fresno County, and that's why she wants a new MAGEC team formed specifically for that area, to share information and resources.

Mims says, "One deputy, or one officer by themselves in one city isn't very effective, but you form a team and you can really make an impact."

It's a plan Selma's police chief supports because he says the gang problem will only get worse - before it gets any better. Chief Whiteside says, "We like sheriff's proposal because it's county wide in our area, it's collaborative and it's inclusive on all of us to do something about one growing problem."

Sheriff Mims says the Sheriff's Department will pay for a sergeant to lead the team and another deputy to participate. The Selma City Council will vote on whether to fund another officer for the MAGEC team on June 4th. If all goes well, Mims says the team could begin work by the end of June.

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